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Getting to know the work of the police Public Protection Unit
I recently delivered some training on the Mental Capacity Act to police officers working in their local Public Protection Unit (PPU) with vulnerable adults. PPU officers work closely with other agencies in safeguarding adults who may be elderly or have learning disabilities or severe mental health problems, and the PPU gets involved where there is suspicion of a crime being committed. These might include physical, financial, sexual abuse or hate crimes.
Safeguarding vulnerable adults is a very complex area of work, and what makes it more difficult to manage is there is very little in the way of a statutory legal framework. Management of safeguarding procedures is covered by policy (in particular the No Secrets framework) but that is not law. Proposals in the current Care Bill will strengthen that framework. Meanwhile the Mental Capacity Act is important because it represents a possible legal framework for intervening to protect vulnerable adults. However, it only applies to people who lack capacity to make decisions about their own safety and well-being.
A recent tragedy has highlighted some of the complexities of the work. A young woman with a recent history of depression and described by police as ‘high risk’ allegedly killed herself and one of her young sons by leaping off a cliff on Dartmoor last month. Her other son was later found dead at home.
Katherine Hooper was described as vulnerable because of mental health problems. She had recently been in hospital following an overdose of medication after a row with the father of her children, who is awaiting trial for assault on her. Katherine was known to police and a number of agencies, including the NHS and social services. There will now be a serious case review, which will be held by the local Safeguarding Board to learn lessons into her death and the death of her children.
The QCS policy on Safeguarding Adults highlights the importance of involving police where there is suspicion of abuse against a vulnerable adult and describes the referral process. Of course, protecting vulnerable adults is not just a police matter; safeguarding procedures are likely to involve a number of agencies working together. The serious case review into the recent tragedy in Devon will no doubt highlight the complexities of joint working. A recent blog on the QCS website (Don’t get caught with your policies down 26.7.2013) has stressed the importance of staff knowing safeguarding procedures and key referral contact numbers. Getting to know something about the work of your local Police Public Protection Unit would be very useful too.
David Beckingham - QCS Expert Contributor on Mental Health